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Saturday, April 29, 2006

Time for my Weekend 

A patron reported a man shaving his pubic hair in the men's bathroom. He was using a disposable pink razor. We're going to a fancy fundraising auction tonight, so it's time to put on some makeup and fight over the mirror while blasting Goodbye, Horses.

Magic Thought Ray 

"Oh, hi. Weren't you sitting next to me this morning?"

I looked up and there was a patron I recognized from the branches. He is friendly and most likely harmless, but whenever he goes of his medication he becomes a bit of a pest. At my old branch, he had developed an obsession with one of the attractive female pages, and would follow her around the library like a duckling while she shelved. My manager gently pulled him aside and explained that this was this page’s place of work, that she had to be here, and it wasn't right for him to follow her around. The patron began crying, and said that he didn’t want to do anything bad, or hurt her or scare her - it was that she was just so beautiful that he wanted to be near her. He apologized and said that he would leave her alone, and he was good on his word, as long as he took his medication.

I can always tell when he’s not on his meds because he’ll transform from a tranquil, if a little lethargic, patron who stares placidly at a book of pictures for hours to an agitated, manic one bursting with child like exuberance. During his manic upswings, he would often run up to the desk, his eyes wild with joy, and declare things like, “’Cause I can be anything I want! Like a librarian or a doctor or president of the United States!"

He was definitely off his medication now. "I didn't recognize you! I thought you were an FBI agent. Be right back."

He returned a minute later. “I had to make a phone call to alert my mother in law that she was being Shanghai'd and sent on a rocket to the moon.” He giggled and leaned in and whispered, “Undercover cops. They're all over the place. I think you’re one of them.”

“I assure you, I’m not.” He gave me a knowing smile and walked off. This was disconcerting. I didn’t like the paranoid direction his delusions were taking, and that I was figuring in them. Although he’s a slight, little man (he reminds me so much of scene stealing Louis Tully from Ghostbusters, and has the same jerky, bowlegged gait) he looked certainly capable enough of leaping across the reference desk at me.

A patient, a young woman, my cousin saw in psychiatry rotation was convinced that a girl she knew in high school was using some sort of thought ray magic to prevent her from moving her bowels. She could only go to the bathroom once every month, and she blamed her old classmate. In calm, rational tones she explained, “I’m so miserable and constipated that I feel like I want to kill myself. Or her. Yes, probably her. I’m really afraid I’m going to act on this.” This poor old classmate, who probably barely even remembered my cousin’s patient, was cheerfully going through life, oblivious to the fact that she was in danger of being murdered in order to restore some mentally ill former acquaintance's regularity. Let’s hope that if my patron wants to kill me, he’ll confide this to his doctor, who would then be obligated to forewarn me.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Spoon has been feeling a little paranoid lately... 

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Wednesday, April 19, 2006

The Long Rain 

Image hosted by Photobucket.comBehold Billy modeling the latest in crushed earthworms. Driven from the soaked earth to the patio in search of air, the poor invertebrates in my yard often meet a far worse fate than drowning. As they lie there on the cement, desperately trying to take in oxygen, Billy likes to roll and mash them into his coat. He’ll then strut and preen through the house, smugly confident in his ‘cloak of invisibility.’ Here he is on his favorite perch, where he can survey the neighborhood and alert us of every significant event, such as a paper bag blowing across the street, with his shrill, castrato bark. He’s like Gladys Kravitz constantly shouting out, “ABNER!” After he tires of neighborhood watch, he'll go and nap on my pillow, upon which he'll shed large amounts of white hairs and earthworm casings.

It has been raining incessantly and monotonously for the past month, and I feel like I’m on Ray Bradbury’s Venus. Remember those creepy stories? Here's the quite memorable first sentence from "The Long Rain:"

The rain continued. It was a hard rain, a perpetual rain, a sweating and steaming rain; it was a mizzle, a downpour, a fountain, a whipping at the eyes, an undertow at the ankles; it was a rain to drown all rains and the memory of rains. It came by the pound and the ton, it hacked at the jungle and cut the trees like scissors and shaved the grass and tunneled the soil and molted the bushes. It shrank men's hands into the hands of wrinkled apes; it rained a solid glassy rain, and it never stopped.

Ray Bradbury didn’t set nearly as many of his short stories on Venus as he did on Mars, but the few he did I count among his haunting best. Bradbury wrote his Venus stories when scientists believed that the planet, because of its impenetrable cloud cover, was humid, verdant and rainy. Bradbury imagined it like a steamy jungle, in permanent gloom, with a constant, driving rain that hit the skin like needles. In "The Long Rain," a small group of men, survivors of a space crash, attempt to make their way through the dense growth and pelting rain to structures earth colonists have built across Venus called sun domes. Sun domes contain a miniature sun that powers and lights the structure, and the interior is dry and cozy with all of the comforts of earthly home. Outside, it's permanent dusk, with driving rain as hard bb pellets. If an object or body falls on the ground, only a few minutes pass before a green, fuzzy mold sprouts upon it.

Native Venusians are amphibious and live primarily in the water, emerging occasionally in raiding parties. They delight in torturing their captives, and have perfected a way of drowning humans that takes an excruciating 8 hours. The planet is nicknamed China because being on it is like being subjected to a form of Chinese water torture.

The group manages to make it to one sun dome, but it's in ruins, its contents
and inhabitants destroyed or carried off by Venusians. The group knows that there is another one within a few days travel, but will they elude the Venusians and make it to sanctuary before being driven insane by the constant rain?

It's odd that Venus is opposite of what was once believed. It actually has a hellish atmosphere, with an extreme pressure that would instantaneously crush you flat. The clouds are not rain clouds, but searing, toxic, boiling formations of sulfuric acid. With a surface temperature hot enough to melt lead, Venus is the most inhospitable planet of the solar system.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

The Cookie is my Master 

Image hosted by Photobucket.comA patron called and asked, "Would you please read me the definition of the word 'about?' How long does 'about' mean? Are we talking about today, or a few days, or maybe a month?"

My colleague read her the Merriam-Webster's definition.

"Well, my fortune cookie told me that something good was about to happen. I've been waiting for a whole month and nothing, and I mean nothing, good has happened to me."

"I'm not sure if I would put too much stock in fortune cookies. I believe those things are deliberately vague so they can mean whatever you want them to mean."

The woman sounded dubious. “Well, you’re entitled to your opinion. Thanks.”

I read a charming article in the New Yorker about Donald Lau, a Vice-President at Wonton Foods, a Chinese company that manufactures fortune cookies. Because of Lau's knowledge of English, he was tapped to refresh the fortunes contained in the cookies, which had not been updated in decades. One still used from the forties advised, “Find someone as gay as you are!” The sources he uses for inspiration? A Dictionary of American Proverbs, The I Ching, and The NY Post. Interestingly, Powerball lottery officials suspected a scam when 110 people, over 10 times the normal amount, presented tickets with a close enough sequence to claim a prize of almost $100,000 a piece. Foul play was eliminated when officials discovered that the winners had used the numbers on the back of one of Donald Lau’s fortunes that read, "All the preparation you've done will finally be paying off."

Here's the full text of the article.

Friday, April 14, 2006

That's a Good One, Papa 

Image hosted by Photobucket.comGood parasite quote from Ernest Hemingway: "The New York literary scene is like a bottle of tapeworms trying to feed off of each other."

A few days ago an elderly woman with a thick Irish brogue called. "Will yee be open on Good Friday?" I said that we would.

I thought that was sweetly quaint and was laughing about it with one of my colleagues. "Well, actually, when this library was staffed solely with Irish political patronage positions (not an MLS in the lot of them!) the library would close down for a couple of hours on Good Friday. Instead of mass, everyone would go to the bars and get loaded and return to work that way. This tradition remained long after the patronage positions were gone.

Have a "Good" Friday.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Parasite Hilton - the ovipositor 

Image hosted by Photobucket.comWhile performing my zombie research I came across this horrid victim of adaptation in the animal kingdom, the zombie roach. I have long been enthralled by parasites but this one is even too much for me. I’ve now decided that the scariest word in the English language is ovipositor. This nasty example of parasitism reminds me of a scary story I read year ago called "Love me Tender" by Bob Shaw. Here’s the outline of the plot.

While fleeing on foot through the Florida Everglades, an escaped prisoner comes across a shack. He bangs on the door and an old man reluctantly allows him in. The escapee, a real lowlife, demands hospitality. He can tell the old man is a drinker and demands liquor. He notices that the shack is mostly bare except for shelves and shelves of jarred specimens. He and the old man get drunk together, and the old man warms up to him and begins to show him some of the specimens, mostly insects. He tells his uninvited guest that he is a lepidopterist who specializes in the study of mimicry, and that the jars hold different species that employ mimicry. He shows him some of his most prized specimens, but the escapee is hardly interested. The old man gets drunker and begins to brag about how he has found a new mimic species that will stun the scientific community and finally grant him the recognition he deserves. The escapee grows bored with the old man’s rambling, especially when he starts in about some terrible Seminole legend, and notices a locked door. The old man panics and tells him not to go in there, that there’s nothing but a bed in there. The escapee, intrigued, goes toward the door. The old man tries to stop him and the escapee savagely knocks him to the ground. The old man hits his head on the side of the table and dies. The escapee decides to see what is behind the door and he breaks the lock and opens the door. Through the gloom he sees a beautiful Indian maiden lying on the bed, her lower body covered by a sheet. He approaches her and she smiles. She seems mute and he sits down on the bed next to her and begins to force himself on her. Instead of screaming for help, though, the woman eagerly kisses him. They embrace and he rips the sheet away from her and then…

The ovipositor projecting from the she-creature’s groin was a tapering, horny spike. Transparent eggs were already flowing from the aperture at its tip, bubbling and winking, sliming its sides, adding to the jellied mass of spawn which had gathered on her distended abdomen. Massick had time for a single whimper of despair, then the she-creature was on him, bearing down with an inhuman strength which was scarcely necessary. The first probing stab from the ovipositor had hurt for only an instant, then ancient and merciful chemistries had taken over, obliterating all pain, inducing a flaccid paralysis which gripped his entire frame. He lay perfectly still, hushed and bemused, as his lover worked on him, stabbing again and again, skillfully avoiding vital organs, filling his body cavities with the eggs which would soon produce a thousand hungry larvae….

The story ends with him in a drowsy, languid, oddly peaceful state, unable to move, while she watches over him, attending to his every need, waiting…

Brrr, scary! But who needs horror stories when you've got things like this courtesy of Mother Nature?

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Hungry 

Image hosted by Photobucket.comThis is pretty much what I looked like this after my morning bike commute in the driving rain. Before I left for work I had put on a bunch of mascara, and my efforts to try and not look like such a drudge at work anymore backfired in a bad way.

There's a nice synchronicity to this because a young woman called looking for a zombie movie. She had to portray a zombie for an acting class assignment and, amazingly enough, had never seen a zombie movie before, and had no idea how zombies acted and behaved. My colleague, an avid Fangoria reader and zombie afficianado, took the call.

"What kind of zombie do you need to depict - flesh eating or voodoo?"

"There's a difference?"

"One type is a recent corpse reanimated by some phenomenon, usually unexplained, although meteors, radiation, viruses, or some scientific experiment by the military gone awry are conjectured. They're mindless, slow moving and crave human flesh, although, in a rather disturbing development, they seem to be getting faster, stronger and smarter in recent movies. They tend to groan as they shuffle and stagger about in search of the living upon which to feed. These zombies can usually be slain by a blow to the head.

"The voodoo variety is a person who has been resurrected from the dead by the forces of black magic. No remnants of their personalities remain. They are under the complete spell of someone and act only to do this person’s bidding. Voodoo zombies seem to be in some terrible limbo between life and death – the soul is gone but the body has been resurrected and enslaved by a person wielding black magic."

"Uh - whatever zombie you think."

"To be safe, I would go with the classic and most familiar zombie, which, of course, you’ll find in Night of the Living Dead. If you’re squeamish and scare easily, I would watch the humorous send-up, Shaun of the Dead. There you should find everything you need."

In my assisting zombie research, I found this fascinating website on Haitian voodoo zombies, and how the superstition was used for political purposes.

Excerpt:
There are many examples of zombies in modern day Haiti. Papa Doc Duvallier, the dictator of Haiti from 1957 to 1971, had a private army of thugs called tonton macoutes. These people were said to be in trances and they followed every command that Duvallier gave them. Duvallier had also his own voodoo church with many followers and he promised to return after his death to rule again. He did not come back but a guard was placed at his tomb, to insure that he would not try to escape, or that nobody steal the body.


One of my mom's friends went to boarding school with Michele Duvalier (Baby Doc's wife) and reported that she was quite the looker. With her flawless, cafe au lait complexion, imperious manner, and cruel beauty, boys from neighboring schools streamed to her like columns of ants - that is, until she got extraordinarily bloated on all the boarding school cafeteria carbs.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Stinking of Gin 

Image hosted by Photobucket.comA man called and asked, “Is it illegal to draw presidents?”

“Do you mean draw a picture of them, sketch them?”

“Yeah! I drew a picture of Abraham Lincoln and I used his face on the penny as the, you know, model. I showed it to my friend and he told me that it was illegal to draw presidents. He said I could get in big trouble.”

“No, it’s not illegal.”

“Are you sure? Because I’ve been doing a lot of drawing lately. I just got out of psychiatric and I’m trying to get my life together and I don’t want to do anything to get in trouble.” He started crying. “Are you sure that I’m not going to get into trouble? I don’t want to get into any trouble.”

“I promise you it’s not illegal. Open any newspaper and I’m sure you’ll find a drawing or caricature of President Bush. People draw political and famous people all the time. It’s not illegal. Your friend is mistaken.” And an asshole.

Through jagged breathing, “OK. Thank you.”

Some friend. I had a mental image of the patron as fragile, innocent Billy Bibbit in One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest, the one whose character is destroyed by Nurse Ratched. What is this extremely common human compulsion to discourage and shit on other people’s work, hopes and dreams?

By the way, these days you can catch the excellent character actor Brad Dourif on Deadwood as alcoholic, tormented Doc Cochran, a man ruined by his memories as a Civil War field surgeon. Whenever I see him I think of the Rocky Raccoon lyrics:
The doctor came in,
stinking of gin,
and proceeded to lie on the table

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Puppies say, "If it's not Scottish, it's Crap!" 

Image hosted by Photobucket.comRecently ordered off the All Things Scottish website! Although Billie looks keen, the kilt is a little short and reminiscent of a gladiator skirt or Japanese school girl. What a handsome laddie, though!










Image hosted by Photobucket.comI think it looks better on Spoon, and much more befitting of her Scottish ancestry. She is long overdue for a grooming, but I love it when her coat is all blown out like this. She looks like a bonnie, wee Scottish thistle!












Image hosted by Photobucket.comSpoon quickly tired of modeling.














Image hosted by Photobucket.comAnd was about to go Naomi Campbell on us. I'm so glad that this picture captured the stalker binoculars in the lower lefthand corner. Perfect for watching sunsets, the grand street theater of our neighborhood, and our neighbors as they mill about in their apartments (just kidding, Brian!). It's just like Rear Window.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

All the girls want to know / Who's the cutest boy on death row? 

Image hosted by Photobucket.comI am in temporarily in charge of prison reference requests. Actually, we’re supposed to call the program “reference by mail,” but the only non prisoner letter we’ve received in 5 years was written, in fine Spencerian script, by some octogenarian Canadian looking for a sympathetic publisher for his memoirs. Usually I would consider this to be a godsend, an endless supply of fascinating material to satisfy my louche curiosity (and that of the readers of this blog, you little devils), but I just discovered that a prisoner that I’ve been corresponding with is a man who committed such a notorious, sickening crime that he had to change his name because of multiple death threats, which is why I didn’t recognize him at first. Through a series of letters he requested information on where to locate books, articles and information about the made for TV movie of his crime, for what purposes I’m not sure. Was he such an egomaniacal narcissist that he wanted to collect every scrap of news about him, or, even worse, did he want to gather all of this to gloat and to stimulate himself? In any case, once I discovered with whom I had been corresponding, I got thoroughly creeped out. I thought I had developed a strong stomach from my days at the Sheriff’s Office but apparently not, because I was really disturbed by the situation, and wondered what kind of professionally ethical commitment I owed to the patron, who is not even local. I consulted a colleague who had worked in prison librarianship back in California, and she advised to just be very bureaucratic and slow and to pass if off to the reference department at the state library if I became too uncomfortable with the work.

My colleague told me that when she was librarian back in California that she used to visit the city jail near the library on one of her rounds, and one of her patrons was none other than Richard Ramirez, the Night Stalker. Whenever she would wheel the book cart down the corridor on he rounds he would pull out his penis, which she said was about 10 inches long, and start slowly stroking it. She would throw his items at him – mostly Heavy Metal magazines and books on (surprise!) other serial killers – and get the hell out of there before a Multiple Miggs type situation befell her. She said that the guard reported that he spent most of his time lolling on his cot surrounded by stacks of love letters from women. It must take a lady with a very special psychology to throw herself at a serial killer. I wonder if they knew that surviving victims reported that his breath was so putrid that it made them gag.

It reminds me of that Kids in the Hall skit, where the teenage ‘girls’ at a slumber party are all arguing over mug shots about who’s the cutest killer on death row. “No! He’s dreamier…”

The transcript.

Another patron in prison was a hulking but handsome African American man who impressed and intrigued her with his noble, calm presence. She asked what he was in for, and was told her he was a gay hustler who had ripped out one of his client’s heart through his back with his bare hands. The guard said, “Vietnam Vet. Short fuse. I think the john stepped on his feet, which he took as a sign of disrespect.”

My colleague had a page to assist her, a middle aged woman who was a devout Christian. She considered her prison work her ‘good work,’ and she would try to strike up friendships with some of the prisoners so she could minister to them on the sly. At the prison she befriended a young, angelic man. They exchanged letters, and he would make her little drawings of animals and sunsets that she would hang up at work. She finally asked one of the prison guards what he was in for. He replied, "Killing little boys and burying them in the sand at the beach." She sallowed and quit prison work shortly thereafter.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Rainy Sunday Movie Day 

Image hosted by Photobucket.comI spent mine watching Lilya 4-Ever, a sexy, light-hearted romp through the vibrant post Soviet empire. Lilya, a spunky little 16 year old, is left ‘home alone’ in her crumbling council estate-like apartment outside St Petersburg after her mother gets married and abandons her for America. At loose ends with no money, things are a little scary at first, what with the gangraping teenager thugs that stalk her, but she makes the best of things and bides her time sniffing glue with her best friend, a neglected little neighbor boy with a psychotic, alcoholic father. Lilya’s luck changes when she meets a handsome boyfriend at a club who promises her a job and a better life in Sweden. There’s a wacky mix-up about the job, and hilarity ensues when Lilya arrives in Sweden and finds herself betrayed, beaten and sold into white slavery. Her little friend, feeling forsaken after Lilya leaves him for Sweden, commits suicide, but then becomes her guardian angel, keeping her company in between her visits with an endless string of disgusting, degenerate, elderly johns. When Lilya’s abusive pimp forgets one day to lock her into her apartment/prison, Lilya makes her escape, but realizing the futility of her situation she jumps off a highway bridge to her death. After watching this movie, I felt like doing the same. The movie ends with her in heaven, an angel, playing with her best friend and babysitting JonBenet. It’s the feel good sex slave movie of the year. I made up that part about JonBenet.

Maybe next Sunday I’ll watch Shoah.

The only other work I had seen by this director was Together, a touching movie about a commune in the Swedish suburbs set during the mid seventies, the twilight of the hippie era. It had an awesome ABBA soundtrack, which perfectly matched the sweet, hopeful message of the movie. I was, therefore, a little unprepared by Lilya 4-Ever, which was emotionally devastating. As I was sealing up the Netflix envelope, my face red and swollen, E inquired, “Awww, did you get a tear on the Netflix Envelope? Is that your ‘silent review?’”

And I replied, "Shut your face!"

When I first moved to Birmingham, my roommate and I had no cable and pitiful television reception. We both came down with a vicious stomach flu, and since we couldn’t watch TV, all there was to do to break up the monotony of vomiting was stare at the ceiling and cry for our mommies. During a brief window between bouts of vomiting Elka heroically managed to get to the video store. And what did she bring home? The Killing Fields, just what you would want to watch in that fragile condition, especially considering how the United States, in my opinion, was largely responsible for driving the entire country of Cambodia insane with our campaign of relentless, illegal, secret bombing. (Don't worry, I also blame the fucking French). Anyway, I should have learned about letting her choose the movies because a few months later we had a little pizza movie party and she presented everyone with Schindler’s List. Of course the pizza arrived right during the scene where the little children have to hide chin deep in the latrine so they don’t have to go to the gas chamber.
No one felt much like eating, and the pizza remained largely untouched.

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